If politics alone wasn't enough to get students out into the HCC courtyard for "Decision 2012: Student votes matter!" this week, the weather surely was. The event, led by two former cast members from MTV's Real World, was originally to be held inside the Kittredge Center, but the forecast of clear, sunny skies and temperatures of 80-degrees convinced Student Activities coordinator Liz Golen to move it outside.
Under the blazing midday sun, Jose Tapia (Real World Key West) and Brooke Labarbera (Real World Denver) talked about political issues, from the economy to health care, and engaged students in a passionate discussion about the upcoming presidential election.
"We're here today to raise voter awareness," said Tapia. "Today, we will share some facts and talk about the issues and let you know how important it is to be informed."
Meanwhile, members of the HCC Student Senate walked through the crowd with clipboards, registering students to vote.
Tapia, a 2011 graduate of Florida State University, said the talk was aimed at 18 to 29 year-olds. In 2000, he said, only 36 percent of that age group voted. By 2004, it was up to 47 percent. "That's impressive, but in 2012, we're looking to make that number increase," he said.
Tapia noted that a 2008 study showed only 44 percent of men in that age group voted, compared to 50 percent of women. "Fellas, we have a lot of catching up to do," he said.
The pair, who have worked college crowds in 2008 when the event was called "Rock the Vote," jumped right into their talk by raising the economy as one of the biggest issues to consider when selecting a president this year. Labarbera told HCC students that she is still without a job after graduating with a degree in social work from New York University last spring, even though she has been on 15 interviews during the last ten months. "The only reason I can imagine has to do with the economy," she said.
The two Real World alums prodded the crowd about President Obama's actions in response to the recession."He's a politician," Labarbera said. "He has to balance being frank with being elected. I think that's important to know."
Students applauded when Tapia asked whether they believed President Obama should be given more time to fix the economy.
"A lot of people would say the economy has gotten better," said Labarbera.
She implored students to stay informed about the issues, whatever their political leanings may be. "Read, read, read," she said. "Don't rely on what someone else tells you. Make your decision based on research."
HCC students had a lot to say about the issues of health care and gay rights. At first, the crowd seemed hesitant to acknowledge gains gays have realized under President Obama, until several students took the microphone and reminded people that Obama had eliminated the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy in the U.S. military that had been in effect since the administration of President Bill Clinton.
Labarbera, who acknowledged that she is a lesbian, read a quote from someone making the case that President Obama had done more to further gay rights than any president in U.S. history, including Clinton.
"I think if he is reelected we will see even more states allowing gay marriage," said Labarbera.
"These moral issues are very big and they always come up in elections," said Tapia. "We can sit here and talk about the issues, but ultimately it's up to you. Our future is in our hands."
Photos: (Left) MTV Real World cast members Brooke Labarbera (far left) and Jose Tapia (far right) pose with members of the HCC Student Senate and Student Activities coordinator Liz Golen (second from left) and HCC Club Coordinator Veronique Leroy (third from right). (Right) Tapia and Labarbera talk to a student about the upcoming presidential election.